Kelly Bertrand talks to the Kiwi kitchen Queen who’s been helping locked-down New Zealanders find joy in cooking – one viral scroll at a time.
No one ever knows what will go ‘viral’.
There’s no science, there’s no rhyme and there’s reason for it. Why did we spend so much time swallowing spoonfuls of cinnamon, learning how to Gangnam Style or trying to figure out what colour that bloody dress actually was?
But occasionally something ‘viral’ will come along that actually enriches the world, especially during the crises of the last year and a half. You’ll all remember Chelsea Winter’s famed Lockdown Loaf of course, and there’s there’s the magic of Chris Parker’s felting escapades and pandemic-themed comedy skits. But of course, right now, I’m taking about Kitty’s Kitchen’s Lockdown Scrolls.
A captive audience without access to Uber Eats helps, sure, but Kitty Williams’ Sweet Chilli, Ham and Cream Cheese Scrolls seized control of our lockdown zeitgeist faster than an influencer can hunt out a collagen powder code.
You know the ones – they were impossible to avoid in your IG feed – images of the drool-inducing morsels popped up every third post as Kiwis searched for comfort in a crazy time. And who knew that the answer to lockdown languish was buried deep in ham, cream cheese and sweet chilli sauce?
No one, really, but take it from me, an average baker who has made them twice – Jesus Christ they hit the spot. So after eating three in one sitting, I decided to talk to the person who made my little locked-down heart happy but also ruined my what little lockdown willpower I once had.
Cantabrian Kitty, who is still shook at her viral success, saw her Instagram account swell from a still-impressive 8,000 to almost 28,000.
“I had a goal to get to 10,000 before my 30th birthday in October,” Kitty laughs down the phone to Capsule.
“Now it’s 30,000 for 30. How insane is that. I feel bad in saying it, but yeah, this lockdown hasn’t been too bad for me!”
A bright spot in a weary nation’s battle against Delta, Kitty’s Kitchen offers unabashed, unashamed comfort. We’re talking fat, dairy, gluten, sugar – stuff you actually want to eat and that makes you feel, even for just a brief minute, happy and satisfied.
But while she’s stoked to have helped Aotearoa get through lockdown number God-knows-what-we’re-up-to-now, Kitty’s also managed to finally figure out her true calling in life. And lucky for us, that means more burgers, rolls and scrolls.
Moving from her native Australia when she was 15, Kitty says she’s never really been able to figure out her place in the world.
“I kind of ducked in and out of jobs for my whole life – I lived in Auckland, in Wellington, Dunedin, Christchurch. I’ve been all over the place! But I was always passionate about food. So around eight months ago I started Kitty’s Kitchen, which was intended to be a little catering business.”
Starting out making platters, Kitty soon realised her heart wasn’t truly in it, and she lost interest fast.
But when she transitioned from grazing platters to posting pictures and recipes of her own meals, Kitty discovered what she was meant to be doing all along.
“I’ve been posting that for about six months or so – and then lockdown happened.”
While her existing followers lapped up her gourmet hotdogs, slow-cooked venison bao buns and breakfast tacos, it was her now-infamous scrolls that somehow took off, with everyone from newspapers to radio stations talking about the recipe.
“These bloody scrolls,” she laughs. “I’ll forever be indebted. I was inspired by a version I’d had in a Christchurch café; I’d order one a week after my Pilates class – balance, you know – so when were locked down, I made my own version.”
Almost instantly, Kitty says, her inbox blew up with mentions and comments.
“I just thought it would be another post, but it just took off. And the really nice thing was the people messaging me, who didn’t think they could bake, who were like, ‘OMG, I feel like a professional’. Giving people confidence in the kitchen feels so amazing.”
Asked why she thinks it was that specific recipe that went viral, Kitty’s still not sure. “There’s just something about them, I guess – I know people love to bake in lockdown, and there’s such a Kiwi comfort food really, but with a little twist.”
Now Kitty is determined to focus on more recipe development, and says the events of the last few weeks have helped solidify her dreams of working in food.
“My whole life, I’ve always asked myself ‘What am I doing?’ What am I good at?’,” she says. “I went to makeup school, I went and taught English in Shanghai… I’ve done all these different things that were great, but my heart was never truly in it. But now, this is what I’m meant to be doing, and everyone’s feedback has really helped me figure that out.
“So to everyone who has messaged and commented, thank you so much!”
KITTY’S KITCHEN LOCKDOWN SCROLLS:
Sweet Chilli, Ham & Cream Cheese Scrolls
2 cups flour
250g tasty cheese – grated (about 3 cups)
1 tablespoon paprika
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup milk
Generous pinch of salt
12 slices of shaved ham
4 tablespoons cream cheese
1/4 cup sweet chilli sauce
Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Grab a large bowl and place a sieve on top. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and paprika. Sieve it through.
Now add the grated cheese and milk. Stir until well combined. The mixture should be quite wet and sticky.
Grab a chopping board and dust it with flour. Divide the mixture into 4. Create 4 rectangular shapes and place onto the chopping board.
Brush sweet chilli sauce all over. Now add 3 slices of shaved ham to each scroll. The ham should be slightly overlapping each other.
Place a tablespoon of cream cheese at the bottom of the scroll then start rolling it over, starting from the cream cheese end. Keep rolling until you have a perfect scroll. Brush some more sweet chilli all over the top.
Place the scrolls onto a lined baking tray then pop into the oven for about 20-25 minutes.